Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side (Jessica #1)

Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side (Jessica #1)by Beth Fantaskey

If I were a movie, what would I be rated? PG-13

Any spoilers in this review? Yes.

Summary: Marrying a vampire definitely doesn’t fit into Jessica Packwood’s senior year “get-a-life” plan. But then a bizarre (and incredibly hot) new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu shows up, claiming that Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth—and he’s her long-lost fiancé. Armed with newfound confidence and a copy of Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, Jessica makes a dramatic transition from average American teenager to glam European vampire princess. But when a devious cheerleader sets her sights on Lucius, Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vampire war—and save Lucius’s soul from eternal destruction.

It wasn’t really my intention to read this book again. See, I remember this book. I remember liking it a lot when I was younger, gobbling it up and reading it with guilty pleasure. Probably because it was paranormal. I remembered a rich romance and lots of wittiness. I ran across it in a used book store and I bought it because of nostalgia mostly.

A couple days after buying it, I got an irresistible urge to read it about 30 minutes before midnight. You may see where this is going.

Anyway, I had to get up at 6:15 for work and finished reading around 3 a.m. The problem was that it was a very easy read and the chapters were short. It was far too easy to say, “One more chapter…” And so, there you go, I read it. I hadn’t even intended to.

So. That happened. Now, onward.

The writing was eh. The characters were all a bit… flat, if strikingly realistic for a teenager at times. I liked how Jess clung to her facts and science and had a brain for it. I didn’t like how cliche the other supporting characters were. You have the Witch Cheerleader, Jess’ rival. The ultimately flat hick character: sweet, handsome, and no match for the bad boy love interest. The somewhat ditzy best friend who was literally there at one point just to help Jess get ready for a dance. They were all… eh. Lucius was cliche was well. In the beginning when you met him, he was rather over the top with his accent and his overbearing conceit. That disappeared rather quickly to make him more palatable. And by palatable, I mean cliche.

Now, the plot was interesting. If you peel away the YA romance and look at what the plot actually could’ve been… you get duty vs freedom. Lucius was influenced by American culture while visiting and that was an interesting aspect. His letters certainly drove it home and the book would’ve been a lot worse if we didn’t have his letters to read.

It came down to this: do you have a duty to do something you have no choice in? To stop a war that might technically break out? Do you marry to fulfill an engagement you never had a choice in, or do you let the adults figure out how to end a possible future war without forcing you, their offspring, to marry?

Now, I’m sure women and men suffered with this question way back then, with politics being what they were, but it’s an interesting concept today in our individualist culture, isn’t it?

In the end, Lucius fell for Jess and got self-destructive when he realized he loved her enough not to force her into a marriage that might ultimately kill her. Having made that decision, he left a future war to possibly happen and countless lives to be lost, but Jess free of him.

And then Jess wanted to fulfill the engagement, because she realized she loved him. And that’s the entire reason I think the book went downhill for me. She wasn’t doing it to be self-sacrificing or to save countless innocent vampire and human lives if a war broke out. She wasn’t doing it because she wanted to change the backward sounding—Lucius had quite the abusive childhood—vampire world and better it. She didn’t do it because she thought she would be a good ruler, even with no training. She did it because she realized she wanted to marry Lucius and actually loved him. Not because of what was at stake. (Ha. Stake. Because vampires? Sorry.)

Now, I understand that Lucius figured out the Real Plot and that’s also why he didn’t want to marry her. This is a noble enough reason not to marry her. But… there was a potential for an interesting, lovely little political twist where they both went in knowing the Real Plot and did their own thing anyway. Or maybe he could’ve brought Jess back with him later—long engagement they talk everyone into—and put their future marriage on hold to train her some to to protect herself. All kinds of things.

Lucius grew up with all these people. And after his experiences in America, I like to think he had some clarity going back about who he could actually trust.

Of course, they get married anyway. Despite her being more of a burden and risking her entire clan being wiped out and all the political ramifications of her not being trained or ready to be a ruler at all. Because love. Sure, they avoided a possible vampire war. But they also made the inner politics of that world a whole lot more complicated and war, because of bad blood, possibly still possible. And much more difficult to spot, though, because now their clans are “united.” Problem sloppily, and not completely, solved.

All I’m saying is I wanted a more… cunning approach to this vampire world. They’ve been around eons. It’s all about politics and ending bloodshed and, in the case of the Bad Guy Vampires, it’s all about consolidating power with their clan only. A brief war, a decent amount of worthless human lives (to them) lost, and the inferior clan would be gone. No need to sully their prince’s line with a crude, American raised, vampire princess. And, reading about Jess’ clan, Jess’ clan really didn’t seem in a position be able to put up much of a fight if it came down to that, so why the pact was still even on is beyond me. The Bad Guy Vampires don’t seem the type to just keep their word if it doesn’t serve them.

There was so much Potential wasted, you know? Ah, well, it was an interesting idea and an interesting walk down memory lane. I don’t think I’ll pick up the next book. My understanding from reviews makes me think it’ll be disappointing.

What some people might be uncomfortable reading about in this book because of personal opinion or belief: as may be expected, the talk of blood drinking eventually does get sensual in nature. The biting sounds like it happens most naturally around, or during, sex. It’s about your average paranormal YA book basically.


Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3)

17378508Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3), by Maggie Stiefvater

If I were a movie, what would I be rated? PG-13

Any spoilers in this review? A couple. I blacked them out.

Summary: Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs. The trick with found things, though, is how easily they can be lost.

When I put an effort into it, I try and address three aspects of a book: the writing, the plot, and the characters. So, we’ll start with the writing, so by the time I get to the other two, I’ll hopefully be a little more articulate and less sprawling ramble and/or possible incoming rant.

The writing was as lovely as always. It’s a step above your average YA novel, in my opinion, because she has some really good turns of phrase and descriptions. It’s pretty without turning into purple prose.

The plot was… a tiny bit more fleshed out. This almost felt like a filler book, pushing and maybe clarifying what we already gleaned from the other ones. The main weakness is how slow paced it is, which is fine in some cases, but you don’t get the impression that anything is really being pushed either. Even after finding a sleeper. It felt mildly anticlimactic. What greatly compounded this issue was Greenmantle being quite the disappointment. After all the scariness of him looming in the background of book one and two, it was a letdown. The description of a spider in a web was good, but as a person? He lacked the weight of, say, the Gray Man’s very solid, but not overbearing, presence. The Gray Man didn’t seem like a caricature, unlike Greenmantle. And then Piper took center stage and she was, although interesting when we first met her, a cliche villainess. They were both disappointing by the end. This made the plot suffer, because the “villains” of this book weren’t scary.

This brings me more fully to the characters.

I can’t tell if I’m old or if I just don’t have much patient with teenagers or romances in YA. I know they’re teenagers. But I feel like if you’re going to throw around what’s supposedly true love—when they’re 18-ish?—then it should actually be a whole lot less selfish than it comes across. I don’t agree with the following reasoning, but I could at least get behind it if they lived as if they were going to die and kiss anyway because why not. I’d be completely behind Blue if she purposefully kept her distance from Gansey to protect his and her heart because she knows her kiss can kill him and he’s dying in X months. Instead we have this weird middle ground where they angst over each other and Gansey still doesn’t know that her kiss will kill whoever she loves. And yet she still allows herself to exist in his life, causing angst and turmoil, without explaining it to him.

I’m just so… over it. Gansey deserves better. I’m not entirely sure why he likes Blue. She’s cute and pretty and… unique? I guess? (Bordering on maniac pixie dream girl?) But outside that they usually have a butting of heads about—something. Anything. And it’s usually Blue who’s far too defensive when she doesn’t need to be. That’s not sexual tension, that’s a difference in basic personality that wouldn’t lend itself to an easy or healthy relationship.

Basically, I feel like all my complaints are the same as book 2. So I won’t rehash it here. Instead, here’s a link to book two’s review. Warning: it’s very ranty. To sum up my issues with the characters: so many interpersonal problems could just be solved if they, you know, talked to each other. But no.

What some people might be uncomfortable reading about in this book because of personal opinion or belief (beware of spoilers!): if you got through the other books, you can get through this one. Violence might’ve ticked up a bit, but that’s it.

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2)

17347389The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2), by Maggie Stiefvater

If I were a movie, what would I be rated? PG-13

Any spoilers in this review? Sadly, yes. Spoilers for book 1 and spoilers for book 2, because I ranted a lot. (And here’s a link to my review of book 1, if you’re interested.)

Summary: Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

Aight. I have two complaints. I’m sure you’re all dying to hear them, so let us begin.

1. Blue. Blue, girl, you and I need to have words. I could get behind you in the first book, but this? This ruined it.

Listen to me very, very closely. I don’t care how much you want a normal life. I don’t care if you want a boyfriend. I don’t care if you want to kiss someone. The foundation of your life is that psychics can be real. Specifically, the ones who raised you and love you are bonafide psychics. And they tell you that the person you kiss will die. So you know what you don’t do? Kiss anyone. And you definitely don’t start dating someone—someone who believes in psychics and the supernatural—and not tell them that little detail.

It’s absolutely ridiculous. Is it fair that Blue has this particular prophecy/reading about her love life when all she wants is a boyfriend and to be kissed and to be normal? No. But guess what? She has a prophecy/reading about her love life that’s less than convenient but she has to deal anyway.

Because you do not date someone and not tell them that. You don’t risk their life like that. If it were someone more cavalier than Adam, the boy could’ve easily leaned in and given her a random smooch as the mood called for it. Yes, I believe in consent. But they’re dating. At some point they’d be comfortable enough it’ll seem natural to Adam to lean in and kiss her, right?

I have absolutely no pity for Blue after she completely shut down—angrily and dumbly, at that—Adam when he tried to bring it up.

Oh, and then you get to this scene on page 365 with Gansey:

Gansey turned to her, his eyes bright. He just nodded.

Why, she thought, agonized, couldn’t it have been Adam?

She said, “If you find out, will you tell me?”

He’s going to die, Blue, don’t—

“I don’t know if we’re meant to find out,” he said.

That… sounds terrible. Absolutely terrible. “Why couldn’t it have been Adam?” Like, what the utter heck, Blue? I know you’re in the throes of emotional teenage angst, but that’s horrible. Why couldn’t it have been Adam who’s going to die in X months? That solves nothing! You still can’t kiss Gansey because of your kiss of death!

1.5 Again, with Blue. Every time something comes up, she’s far too quick to get up in arms. And her conversation in the car with Gansey, sometime during the scene on top of the mountain overlooking the city, was just painful. Gansey kept having to add these disclaimers like “not that I’m saying—” and “I’m sorry, that’s not what I meant and you know it and” and honestly, Blue, just chill? Gansey’s not sexist. He’s just very awkward with his friends, let alone with you and your/his budding crush. I.e., he’s human. There are ways to gently correct if he’s obviously in the wrong. And he wasn’t trying to call you weak or trying to sound sexist. Honestly. I just… honestly.

A good example of her getting up in arms too quickly is the beginning of chapter 21. Blue says they should take Ronan to have a consultation with her family. Ronan said no. There’s some confusion. And then Blue “icily” says, “This is a religion thing, isn’t it?” And, ok, A) this is Ronan, so what did she expect? But B) Blue is utterly… horrible about it? Totally, overly, snarlingly defensive? Surely she’s met skeptics of psychics in her life. But of all the things to have a problem with, Ronan having a religion that doesn’t agree with her beliefs shouldn’t—like, if they actually want to hang out and/or be friends to a certain degree or even run in the same circles, Blue needs to loosen up and realize not everyone is going to believe her or her family. Discuss it like rational people if it’s such a big deal.

Religion is an especially touchy subject today. And I don’t like how Blue dealt with it, however brief the scene was.

2. Ronan and what happened with Gansey’s car. Now, you can argue until you’re blue (ha—see what I did there?) in the face that it’s just transit and it’s just a car and Gansey could get any other, but Ronan himself said several times that Gansey wanted his Pig. Not a different, fake car. His Pig. Setting aside whether or not Gansey should be that attached to his possession, it’s clearly something to matters to him.

So it absolutely boggles my mind why Ronan would be so careless and so… inconsiderate when it comes to Gansey’s Pig. Gansey who he loves, even if he doesn’t respect at all/in a noticeable way. The Pig is so much more than a car and yet Ronan wanted to street race with it and I just cannot fathom it. It’s one thing to want to race a particular car. It’s another if it’s Gansey’s Pig. Knowing how Gansey felt about the Pig should’ve neatly put the Pig “off the market” of street racing, as it were.

I have a friend whose car means a lot to them. Just like Gansey and his car. And my friend has made it pretty clear that they really appreciate having wheels and their own car and such. And I respect that. A lot. I love my friend. And because I know how much their car means to them, when I visited them, even if they had offered, I probably would’ve refused to drive it. I would’ve been so stressed about driving it I would probably get in the very wreck that I was worried I’d get in driving their car in the first place. And it’s not even getting in a wreck that would bug me so much as I ruined their car. After they hypothetically trusted me with something that matters to them.

Gansey didn’t let Ronan drive the Pig for pretty obvious reasons.

I just can’t fathom how little respect for Gansey that translates into? For the sake of plot, he crashed the Pig, but still. He literally dreamed keys, accidentally or not. He literally waited for Gansey to be out of town and without the Pig to go race it. When he knows how Gansey feels about the Pig and street racing in general.

Listen, if we’re going to have a misunderstand, woe-is-me, “heart of gold” bad boy character, at least give more proof that his heart, frankly, actually exists? I shouldn’t have to look for it. I don’t like how Ronan treats his friends. He’s cruel and harsh. He said something to Adam that made me furious, to the effect of “yeah, not all of us were born in hell though” and you just… don’t say that to someone from an abusive home? Whose dad you punched because you saw him beating Adam up?

I understand Ronan to a certain degree, but I certainly don’t agree with him on everything and I’m not sure I like the light Stiefvater is showing him in. It’s a bit too positive, if that makes sense. I’m still wary of Ronan and I could also really do without Stiefvater’s love affair with street racing sprinkled in.

I feel like people may say that he gets better in future books and there are examples of his good in said future books, but… I should be seeing his worth as a friend now. I shouldn’t have to wait for his heart of gold to manifest from his bad boy persona. Especially in a book centered on him and one that should give us a better idea of what’s in his head.

3. I’m disappointed with the plot. It kind of… stuttered and trickled along. And then the most random plot point of all was introduced. Kavinsky and his obsession with Ronan. And the dramatic “if you’re not with me, you’re against me.” And the kidnapping of Matthew. It all felt so forced and fake. Meanwhile, Adam’s got magic in him. An ancient and old magic that I want to know more about. I want to learn more about Cabeswater instead of this stalling Stiefvater does. I’m half tempted to say, out of pure cynicalness, that the plot stuttering is all about dragging out a series for more moolah. Honestly, I do like all the characters. They’re real and flawed. (Very, very flawed.) And they give me anxiety. But! Amazing character development—not romance! Character development! The romance sucked!—can only carry the book so far. There needs to be more Muchness to make a truly great book.

This one lacked its Muchness. The plot is very sketchy right now. Purely from an analytical angle, the Kavinsky-kidnaps-Ronan’s-brother-in-a-fit-of-jealous-rage plot felt very random. As if only to add some drama to the book and have a scene with nightmare creatures from dreams fighting in “real” life.

Overall, I enjoy Stiefvater’s writing and I enjoy the characters. They’re all flawed which, while it makes them more real, also frustrates me. I’m looking at you two, Blue and Ronan.

Three stars because of plot and the Blue/Ronan frustrations that I don’t feel were dealt with properly. I do hope the rest of the series picks up.

What some people might be uncomfortable reading about in this book because of personal opinion or belief: enough cursing to rate an R if it were a movie (thanks, Ronan); talk of kissing but nothing was ever too crude; hints of bisexuality/homosexuality on Kavinsky and Ronan’s part, which are enough that you should steer clear if that’s not your cup of tea; and there’s a hitman who, you know, kills people. YMMV.


Quotes I liked:

“I know you think you’re a punk,” Declan said, “but you aren’t nearly as badass as you think you are.” —93

By the time they had tamped the last pile of dirt over the hole, they were soaked with rain and sweat. There was something warming, Ronan thought, about all of them burying a body on his behalf. He would’ve preferred it to stay in his dreams, but if it had to slip out, this was better than the last out-of-control nightmare. —152

Gansey ran over the memory until he no longer felt the thrill of hearing Glendower’s name whispered in his ear and then instead gave himself over to feeling sorry for himself, that he should have so many friends and yet feel so alone. He felt it fell to him to comfort them, but never the other way around. —132

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1)

17675462The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1), by Maggie Stiefvater

If I were a movie, what would I be rated? PG-13

SummaryEvery year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her. His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble. But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little. For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore. 

Guys. Guys, I don’t even know what to say. I feel like I accidentally finished this book, because it wasn’t my intention to read it in two days. And everyone in this book won my heart over. So, on the one hand I’m like, “This is so amazing! I love them all! Look at them! So real! Look how true and complex and realistic their relationships are!” and the other hand I’m wailing in a corner, clutching at my heart because these stupid raven boys.

I don’t think you’lll get a very articulate review out of me. The summary was rather “eh” and I wasn’t ready to be so emotionally compromised. Gah. There feel like there are literally too many things to address.

I was actually yelling, “What does that mean!” after finishing the book, though. And then the summary for the next book explained things.  Anyway, great book. Amazing job. I didn’t need my heart, apparently.

What some people might be uncomfortable reading about in this book because of personal opinion or belief (beware of spoilers below!): cursing is mild. There were a handful of inappropriate sexual comments (love you too, Ronan) and there’s a murder. Two of the characters find the bones of a human being. There’s ghosts. The main character is a daughter of a psychic and lives with psychics, all of whom are touted as real. One of the characters is in an abusive family and, since the POV switches sometimes, you get a chapter where they’re beaten by their father. It’s violent and disturbing. On screen, this may rate an R rating. As it is, precede with caution.


Miscellaneous thoughts:

1. I think Persephone is the famous psychic named Leila that was mentioned in passing.

2. The more I read of Adam and Gansey, the more I saw what I imagined Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin would’ve been like. I mean, look:

Maura continued, “You’re avoiding a hard choice. Acting by not acting. You’re ambitious, but you feel like someone’s asking some of you you’re not willing to give. Asking you to compromise your principles. Someone close to you, I think. Your father?”

“Brother, I think,” Persephone said.

“I don’t have a brother, ma’am,” Adam replied. But Blue saw his eyes dart to Gansey. (Page 145)

I read that as was like, “This. This is Godric and Salazar.”** It’s a Slytherin in a tough situation that the Gryffindor wants so desperately to fix, but both have different types of pride, and so neither can really move farther. It was amazing. And the characters all stayed consistent throughout the book. I’m also pretty sure Adam is an INTJ or ISTJ, as some of his thoughts and reasoning was rather exactly what I would think in his situation. Adam is my favorite and needs to be hugged.


Quotes of interest:

Blue never grew tired of feeling particularly needed, but sometimes she wished needed felt less like a synonym for useful. —Page 11

Gansey preferred Ronan to his elder brother Declan, and so the lines had been drawn. Adam suspected Gansey’s preference was because Ronan was earnest even if he was horrible, and with Gansey, honesty was golden. —Page 48

Ronan’s expression was still incendiary. His code of honor left no room for infidelity, for casual relationships. It wasn’t that he didn’t condone them; he couldn’t understand them. —Page 49

“I could cover you until you found something.”

There was a very long silence as Adam continued scrubbing his fingers. He didn’t look up at Gansey. This was a conversation they’d had before, and entire days of arguments were replayed in the few moments of quiet. The words had been said often enough that they didn’t need to be said again.

Success meant nothing to Adam if he hadn’t done it for himself. —Page 132

A wrinkle formed between Adam’s eyebrows as he looked away. Not at the double-wides in the foreground, but past them, to the flat, endless field with its tufts of dry grass. So many things survived here without actually living. He said, “it means I never get to be my own person. If I let you cover for me, then I’m yours. I’m his now, and then I’ll be yours.” —133